July 1st is Marisa Monte’s birthday, so here are 10 top videos married to a likewise number of surprising stories. From her meteoric start in the 1990s to headlining Rio’s Summer Olympic launch plus a quartet of Latin Grammy awards, Marisa Monte has become one of the world’s most admired Brazilians. But there are still a ton of facts and trivia you probably don’t know about this southern star of MPB.
1Marisa Monte moved to Italy to study Opera
It’s true. When she was 14, Monte wanted to become an opera singer like her early idol Maria Calles. So she studied lyric singing and five years later (after a few hits and misses with Rio’s Pop/Rock club scene) moved her zip code to Venice and Rome, where she began training in Bel canto. But after 10 months, Monte returned to Brazil after realizing that she did not want to live away from her homeland.
2Her father has been a Director of Rio’s legendary Portela Samba School
Marisa Monte grew up in a nurturing musical environment. Her father, Carlos Monte, an economist, was a cultural director at the Portela samba school and that’s how she grew to appreciate Rio’s deeply-held traditions of Samba. Portela is Rio’s reining Carnaval champion and its 2018 theme hints at the story of Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
3Her very first single became a cult classic
Perhaps it was her 1982 role in Rocky Horror, but for whatever the reason, Marisa Monte became something of a cult icon in Rio at the start of her career. But she’s not sure why: “As soon as I showed up, I was given the ‘cult’ label and curiously, it is still around today”. Maybe it’s because Monte doesn’t behave like the Diva moniker that’s been given to her by the press. “When I’m away from the stage, I don’t act the way a popular singer is expected to be.” Good for you, Marisa! Here’s her first hit song ‘Bem Que Se Quis’ from her debut album MM.
4She leads a personal life, in public
In 2002, Marisa Monte became pregnant during the lead-up to the album Tribalistas and she decided to set aside her career, and stay out of the public eye. The simultaneous release of Infinito Particular and Universo Ao Meu Redor marked her return in 2006. “Simple things make me happy,” she says. “To admire a toucan, to dry my hair in the sun, to make a meal for my two children. I do not have the goal of making money.”
5Monte respects the traditions of Brazil’s diverse musical history
When she signed her first contract with EMI Brasil, one of the first things Monte did was to do a deep dive into the label’s archives. “They were the oldest record company in Brazil, and they had all that Carmen Miranda, Pixinguinha, and Dorival Caymmi stuff”, she said. It reportedly took months to go through it all, but her research laid the basis for her creative path. Here she is with Paulinho da Viola, who created the term “Old Guard” to honor the veterans of the Escolas do Samba.
6She’s sold more than 11 million albums… and nearly a third of those came from one album
Marisa Monte has won numerous national and international awards, but it was her 2002 recording with Tribalistas (L to R, Carlinhos Brown, Monte, Arnaldo Antunes) that sold the most: nearly 3 million copies worldwide. Last August, they reunited for a new Tribalistas album (DL only) and their popularity hasn’t waned: Brazil Club’s Facebook announcement for the debut reached more than 9,000 fans in a heartbeat.
7Marisa Monte Is descended from one of the oldest Italian families in Brazil
Marisa Monte was born in Rio de Janeiro, daughter of Carlos Saboia Monte and Sylvia Marques de Azevedo Monte. On her father’s side, she is descended from the Saboias, one of the oldest Italian families in Brazil.
8Rolling Stone likes her. A lot.
Marisa is considered by Rolling Stone Brasil to be the second greatest singer in Brazilian music history, behind only Elis Regina. That’s quite a compliment!
9Marisa Monte recorded a tribute song for the 90th anniversary of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s birth
2018 marks Bossa Nova’s 60th birthday, but one year earlier, Monte headed to Biscoito Fino’s studios to add her voice to Carminho Canta Tom Jobim. Created as a tribute to Brazil’s greatest songwriter, the singer from Portugal features the Jobim songbook plus duets with Monte, Chico Buarque and Maria Bethânia. The band is pretty good, too: Paulo Jobim (guitar), Daniel Jobim (piano), Jaques Morelenbaum (cello) and Bossa Nova’s greatest drummer, Paulo Braga.
10Monte’s new songwriting partner is also one of Brazil’s best
Although many of her best-known songs have come from partnerships with Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes, recently Marisa Monte has been seen with a new talent who goes by his surname: Silva. The two met after he honored her on an episode of TV Globo’s ‘Versões’. Lucio Silva has presented his show ‘Silva Canta Marisa’ in Brazil and Europe with his interpretation of many Monte favorites.